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    Herbert Hoover Superb Autograph Letter Signed: In 1940, the former President handwrites a letter to be sold for the benefit of the Finnish people, explaining that "truly every cent helps to lighten their great burdens and their great distress." Finland had been invaded by Russia five months earlier.

    Signed: "Herbert Hoover", one page, 7.25" x 10.25". New York, New York, May 1, 1940. To James Waldo Fawcett. In full: "Dear Mr. Fawcett, I sincerely hope that the celebration of the centenary of the first adhesive postage stamp which your friends have planned will be a great success. It is most generous of you to devote the proceeds to help the people of Finland. Truly every cent helps to lighten their great burdens and their great distress. With kind regards."

    James Waldo Fawcett (1893-1968) was an editorial writer and stamp columnist for the Washington Star and was President of the Washington Philatelic Society (1937-1940). On April 29, 1940, he wrote to Hoover, in part, "May I enlist your help toward the success of an incident in the program for the Celebration of the Centenary of the First Adhesive Postage Stamp? It happens that we plan to sell a sheet of the charity stamps of Finland at our Centenary Banquet at the Hotel Mayflower, Saturday evening, May 4. These will be offered immediately following the address of the Finnish Minister. Bidding, we have reason to expect, should be high, but in order that it may reach a maximum I have been asked to appeal to you to send me a letter, written in your hand, to be auctioned with the sheet...The proceeds, of course, will go to the Finnish Relief Fund." The first adhesive postage stamp, the Penny Black, was issued by Great Britain on May 6, 1840. The "Celebration of the Centenary" was held in Washington, May 2-6, 1940. A photocopy of Fawcett's letter is present; the original is in the Hoover Library. Also included are two photographs of Fawcett.

    After World War I ended, almost every European country was in debt to the United States for loans used to finance the war and reconstruction. In 1931, President Herbert Hoover granted the European debtor countries a yearlong moratorium in an effort to facilitate international economic relations during the Depression. It didn't mean the pardoning of debts, only their postponement, but every country with the sole exception of Finland took the moratorium to mean a pardon and left their debt unpaid. Only Finland continued to pay its debt on time until it was paid in full. Hoover never forgot this.

    On November 30, 1939, Russia invaded Finland. Six days later, on December 6th, Herbert Hoover incorporated the Finnish Relief Fund and by January 5th, $400,000 had been transferred to Finland by what had quickly become known as Herbert Hoover's Finnish Relief Fund. Five months later, Fawcett asked Hoover for a handwritten letter and Hoover immediately wrote the requested letter to raise funds for the Finnish people.

    "Mekeel's Weekly Stamp News" reported that at the banquet on May 4, 1940, the "sheet of stamps of Finland with a letter written by ex-President Herbert Hoover in his own handwriting were auctioned. Philip H. Ward was the highest bidder, securing them at $350.00." Noted stamp dealer and presidential frank collector Philip H. Ward, Jr. (1886-1963) was the director of the centenary stamp exhibition at the Library of Congress. The handwritten letter and Finnish stamps stayed in his collection until his death and were sold at Parke-Bernet Galleries on February 11, 1964, for $220. Herbert Hoover died eight months later at the age of 90.

    Hoover rarely wrote handwritten letters. He once claimed that he had not written more than a dozen in his lifetime. This exceedingly rare handwritten letter with philatelic as well as humanitarian content is in extra fine condition; it has never been folded. It would make an extraordinary addition to a presidential collection. From the Gary Grossman Collection.

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    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    April, 2007
    16th-17th Monday-Tuesday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 2
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
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